Amid all the furore surrounding Manchester United’s title triumph on Monday night, many of us may have forgotten about Aston Villa’s plight.
Their crippling 3-0 defeat does boss, Paul Lambert, no good at all in his efforts to stave off relegation and now, with just four games remaining, Villa are in serious trouble.
They sit in no man’s land right now, three points ahead of 18th-place Wigan but three adrift of Newcastle, Stoke, and Sunderland in relative safety. Wigan have a game in hand – against Swansea next month – and are famed for plotting the great escape year on year.
If Villa are to survive this season, they must eke out three points from their last three games before clashing with the Latics on the final day and the Premier League odds suggest that could be difficult, largely due to Monday night’s performance.
The ease at which United carved open Villa’s jittery defence in the first half was not too surprising. Lambert’s men have not been good enough at the back all season and a lack of communication when the midfield is split has often led to goals being conceded.
The midfield, meanwhile, took an entire 45 minutes to latch on to United’s main outlet – Shinji Kagawa – who swaggered around the Old Trafford pitch on Monday night until Lambert finally stuck Ashley Westwood on him.
Although, by that stage, it was too late to change the game, Villa’s tight midfield contribution in the second half will give Lambert confidence heading into their final four games.
Fans can expect the side to play counter-attacking football away at Sunderland this weekend, in one of the Premier League’s 3pm kick-offs, and, should they take the lead, watch as their midfield compacts.
Seeing out wins and draws is now Villa’s only chance of survival and Lambert must rely solely on Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor to find the goals. The rest of his squad will do the donkeywork and if they perform like they did in the second half at Old Trafford they should be safe – but that is a big if.